A recent surge from Sutton United has Matt Gray’s side in 12th place in the Vanarama National League, six points off the play-off places and nine clear of the drop zone. One of those at the heart of it has been Harry Beautyman.
Among the league’s leading scorers, the midfielder is feeling at a real high point for enjoyment in his career. The Sky Sports Gillette Soccer Saturday favourite (“What sort of goal was it? It was a Beauty, man…”) has five goals in his last six outings, with a New Year’s Day double in the 6-2 win over Woking.
The former Leyton Orient youngster earned a move back into the League in 2014, as he joined Peterborough United from Welling. Now 27, the one-time Northampton Town and Stevenage man feels he is on the climb again, at a club he reserves no shortage of affection for.
Firstly, what do you think has changed for you to be getting these better results lately? Anything you can pinpoint?
If I’m honest with you, I think it’s all just come down to luck, because we had a stage of the season where we were playing really, really well, but we just couldn’t seem to score, and we were conceding sloppy goals. One example, we went away to the league leaders and were playing so well, just couldn’t score, and they had one shot, one goal. That’s just the way it was going for us at the time, but we got that win under the belt and everything changed from there really.
You’d worked before with the manager (Matt Gray having been head coach under Paul Doswell) but what, if anything, has been different since he took over?
We’ve tried to keep it as similar as possible, in terms of the way we play, what we do in training. We haven’t really tried changing too much, because what Dos did at the club brought us great success. Obviously, all different managers have different styles, little tweaks here and there, but overall, it has been very similar, to be honest.
And what is that style, more specifically? Is it a lot of communication, is it generally leave you to it?
It’s one of them where it all depends on how it’s going. Obviously when you’re on a bad run, fingers get pointed and you have words, but when you’re on a good run it kind of speaks for itself, and everything, as you can imagine, is a lot easier.
It’s not your first spell at Sutton, how has it changed since you were last here?
There’s a much bigger support now than when I was first here, in terms of gates. We were obviously in the Conference South when I was first at the club. The club has grown a lot in that space of time, but in terms of people behind the scenes, everything’s the same. It’s a very family-orientated club, everyone knows each other, and it is a really nice club to be at.
In terms of your character and what you try to bring to a dressing room, is that being one of the livelier ones?
Yeah, if I’m honest, I’ve always been like that, but luckily enough, we’ve got a few boys like that at the club. The more, the better, because it just creates a much better atmosphere, and you go into training looking forward to it. There’s a good team spirit at the club, everyone’s happy, jokey and loud, and it’s just the way you want it to be, but obviously when it’s time to get serious, it’s time to get serious.
What about some of the bigger personalities from your time in football overall?
Yeah, I’ve come across a few, to be honest with you, but one of the biggest ones was from the time I was at Leyton Orient – Dean Cox. He was a huge character, in the dressing room and on the pitch; very lively, bubbly, always mucking around. At Sutton, it would have one million percent been (recently-retired club captain) Jamie Collins; he’s a huge character. He’s one of the best captains the club’s ever had. He’s a great character and he did that role superbly well.
There’s been the thing for a few seasons now on Soccer Saturday when you score (with presenter Jeff Stelling describing the goal as a ‘Beauty, man’) but do you remember the first time you heard about it?
I think the first time I ever heard it was when I was at Welling United, when we played Woking away. We won 4-1 and then I just had a silly amount of messages and videos sent to me. I remember looking at my phone thinking ‘what’s going on here?’ When you score you always get a few messages, but there was a lot more this time. I had a look at it and it was a good laugh; it’s got to the point now where you’re thinking ‘oh, God’s sake!’ But he’s a good laugh.
Have you ever met Jeff?
I haven’t ever met Jeff, no, but he seems like a good character. I don’t think he’d wanna meet me, because I stuck two goals past Hartlepool at the start of the season! I remember watching Soccer Saturday from a young boy, so he’s someone I do admire, to be honest. It is nice to get that kind of recognition, if you like.
— Peterborough United (@theposhofficial) March 25, 2016
When it came to getting that move into the League with Peterborough, what did you find? What struck you as being different about it all?
It’s a huge, huge difference, and the thing that struck me the most, number one, the intensity, and then the standards. There can’t be a time where you go into training and be like ‘I feel a bit tired today.’ Every time you train, your standards have got to be right at the top, otherwise you get caught out. You get caught out big time, so you’ve constantly got to have high standards. The higher you go, the more they demand from you. It does take over your life; even when you finish training you’ve got to go to the gym, or you’ve got to go to the swimming pool and recover for the next day. You’ve got to make sure you eat well to make your body recover. It is just continuous; a lot of people probably don’t realise, you know?
What has been the happiest overall time for you in football so far? On the pitch, off the pitch.
I think it was when I first went to Peterborough. They had a really, really good squad of players; not only talented but just a good group in general. Darren Ferguson was the manager, Gavin Strachan was the assistant manager, and it was just, I’d say the hardest but the happiest I’ve felt, if that makes sense. Obviously, it was all new to me, going full-time and getting stuck straight into the team. Then you look at now, where I’m in a really good run of form in terms of goals, so in terms of actually enjoying my football, it’d probably be at the moment.
What about the toughest spell? Or even a slightly scary time – maybe leaving Orient?
The scariest time was, as you said, getting released from Orient. I was a first-year pro when I got released, and in my head, the dream was over, if you like. I knew I was gonna stick at it, but in terms of actually playing at a level that I wanted to play at, I believed that could have been the end of it. I’d never been released before, so it was all new to me. It was more of the unknown, which was the scariest part for me, but the hardest time was probably when I was at Northampton. I really enjoyed my time there, I started off really well, and then I had a little run out of the team, I was living away from home. It got to the point where I’d lived away from home for nearly three years and I didn’t know anyone around the area any more; all the boys I did know had left. I was a bit lonely, there was no one around me apart from my partner, and football wasn’t going too well, so that was probably the lowest part of my career. It’s not because of the club in general, just me personally. It’s just part of football, part of being in the industry. You have to make sacrifices, you have to move away from home, and these things happen, but I came through the other side and I’m really enjoying my football again.
What kind of approach from a manager have you found works best with you? To be generally left alone, or is it someone who’s on at you a lot more?
I probably believe the best approach for me is kind of just leaving me to it. I must say there was a time where I was at Peterborough and I had two really bad games on the trot. I’d played every game up until that point and I was thinking ‘that’s me out of the team now.’ I remember we had a meeting, the whole team, and I was named in the team. I remember sitting there thinking ‘bloody hell, I can’t believe I’ve started.’ I remember that game, we beat Rochdale 2-1, and I scored and got an assist. It was just an eye-opener, because I didn’t expect the manager to keep faith in me, and it was kind of a relief to pay him back really.
In your time in football so far, is there a player you’ve played with whose ability alone deserved/deserves to be at a higher level?
The most gifted player I’ve played with – he has actually played at a good level (currently in the Championship with Charlton) – Erhun Oztumer, but he came from Dulwich Hamlet. He’s tiny, you look at him and think he might be too small to be a footballer, but he hardly ever gave the ball away, and when he was on the ball you just couldn’t get it off him. Low centre of gravity was unbelievable. He’s done really, really well for himself. We’ve got a player at the moment, David Ajiboye; he’s only 21 but he’s getting better every season. He came from Weymouth, he came from a lower league, and he’d never played higher. He’s a player that I’d look out for, because he’s getting better every game.
Have there been any initiations you’ve had to do when joining a new club, and if so, which song(s) have you gone with?
Yeah, I’ve had to sing a few times now. I usually stick to Luther Vandross ‘Never Too Much’. I’ve had good feedback and that’s why I’ve stuck to it, to be honest!
One singer/band/song you’d sneak on to the team playlist? Assuming that you don’t run it already…
It’s really a mix between me and Louis John (as dressing-room DJ), but I like either house music or garage before games; just something upbeat and lively to get you going. After the game, I wouldn’t mind sticking a bit of Bieber on, or a bit of Ed Sheeran!
In terms of routine, how does a typical week for you tend to go?
Well as you can imagine, over Christmas it’s so, so hectic; literally game after game after game. The biggest thing, as boring as it is, is just resting as much as you can. You’re literally getting home from training and resting, playing the games and then resting, making sure you’re eating right. It’s very, very repetitive, a footballer’s lifestyle, but it’s how you’ve got to look after your body. With the amount of games, it’s hard to get through otherwise.
Finally, aside from those things, when you’re not playing or training, what else fills your time, in terms of interests away from football?
I love my golf. When it gets to the summer and the season’s over, I love my golf, and if I could, I’d play it four or five times a week. It’s just something I really, really enjoy. I find it relaxing, I love the walk, I love playing it, especially when the weather’s nice. So, in terms of hobbies, golf would definitely be up there, but it’s not a sport for me in the cold!
Interview by @chris_brookes